Thomasina Camarda

Thomasina Camarda, MBA '22

Moving from Military to Management

Thomasina Camarda, MBA '22, came to the Michigan Ross Global MBA program ready to make the most of her experience. She brought with her a range of leadership roles spanning military, civilian, and nonprofit engagements. With the business management foundation of an MBA, Thomasina hoped to bring together these experiences to shape her next career move. 

Prior to pursuing her MBA, Thomasina was a full-time member of the U.S. Army Reserves. In this role she was involved in operations and planning, as well as coordinating large-scale exercises with various partners of the U.S. military — work which took her abroad to Germany and South Korea. Thomasina had also managed a team as an operations supervisor at logistics company DHL Express, a job she described as offering her "a new adventure every day." Outside of these full-time roles, Thomasina was involved with a number of nonprofit organizations, including the Wisconsin Green Veterans Group, which facilitated therapy through organic gardening, gleaning, and composting projects, as well as the Milwaukee Water Commons, a nonprofit focused on education about caring for our water. Her engagement with these groups prompted her to think more about the direction of her career, how she could make a larger impact, and the value of business skills in the nonprofit space. "My experience with nonprofits before moving here actually pushed my decision to pursue the MBA rather than any other graduate degree. I thought that having business skills could help me later down the road," Thomasina said.

Arriving in Ann Arbor 

Once admitted to the program, Thomasina noticed the diverse experiences her peers brought to the classroom, and the ease with which connections were formed. Global MBA students hail from a number of countries and complete all of their core coursework together. Thomasina noted, "It's a more intimate experience. You really get to know your classmates." 

She added:

My classmates' breadth of knowledge — the variety of experience and backgrounds that they have — was probably one of the most interesting things to discover in my initial classes.

Her smaller cohort also created opportunities for more direct interactions with Global MBA faculty. "Our group is small enough to really have time with the professors. I had a few professors who would study with me one-on-one for an hour here, or an hour there." 

Once core coursework is complete, electives are taken alongside students from other MBA programs at Michigan Ross. Thomasina said this gave her the opportunity to combine the close-knit relationships she formed within her cohort with the experience of forming a larger network of peers. "You get a good mix of what it's like to be in a small cohort, and also what it's like to be with a larger one — it's a nice blended opportunity." 

Expanding Her Network 

When she wasn't in the classroom, Thomasina was taking advantage of campus clubs and events. She participated in the annual Leadership Crisis Challenge, an action-based learning experience during which teams take on the role of C-suite executives to solve a crisis in 24 hours. She also worked with a Michigan nonprofit as a participant of the Community Case Competition. Thomasina met twice weekly with students in other business degree programs, including Executive MBA, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Full-Time MBA, as they worked together on their eight-week project. The team's work culminated in a final presentation to leadership, and the winning team was able to make a donation to their sponsor nonprofit. "It was fun to work with people outside of your normal group of friends, or normal classmates that you see every day," Thomasina said.

The social aspect here can't be ignored. You can have as much or as little social interaction as you want.

Thomasina also found an active and welcoming community of military members and veterans in the Armed Forces Association. In the fall, she spoke on a panel at VetX, the annual veteran storytelling event at Michigan Ross hosted by the AFA. And through her connection to the military community on campus, Thomasina participated in the Jason George Veterans Leadership Summit, an event honoring the legacy of a Michigan Ross military member who was killed in action. By networking with companies who attended the summit, Thomasina said she was able to connect with her future employer, Republic Services. Following graduation, Thomasina will join Republic's general management acceleration program.  

Looking Ahead 

Though Thomasina's next step is to become a general manager of a business line at Republic, she said of her long-term role at the company: "My future title may not exist yet." Calling on her previous work with sustainable nonprofits, Thomasina added, "Ultimately, I'd like to end up working in a sustainability role, possibly in an organics department that recycles organic material into compost or gas." She also reflected on how she plans to make use of her MBA as she navigates her career: "I think I'll apply so many things. As a general manager, you have to be able to understand and speak intelligently about a variety of topics and everything your business covers. And, the more experience you have working with people from different backgrounds, the better — it makes it easier to relate to and understand people, and that's a skill I've built here in the Global MBA and one that I'll definitely take with me."